This afternoon, I went to a neighbor’s house to check out her backyard. She and her husband are hosting a fall festival next month and we discussed some of the details to see how I can help.
One of the best parts of their backyard is a tree house/zip line combo that the husband built himself. Kids love it. And so does he, as he demonstrated as soon as we went outside.
“Your turn,” he said, dismounting the wooden zip line seat.
I climbed the spiral stairs to the top of the tree house and took the rope. Then I froze. For a good 15-20 minutes.
I wasn’t as worried about jumping off the ledge as I was about smacking the ground and dislocating a knee or two. I’m pretty tall and the husband is short, so I wasn’t confident about the distance between me and the ground at the lowest point of the zip line.
“Does anyone else ever freeze once they get up here?” I asked him from the top.
“My granddaughter,” he said from the ground.
He assured me that 300-pound men have successfully zip lined their way across his yard without falling off or otherwise injuring themselves, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t take the initial leap. I must have counted to 3 a dozen times.
“OK, here I go,” I’d say, then nothing happened.
“Why is this so hard for me?” I wondered out loud. “I’ve been skydiving! Why can’t I do this?”
Did I mention the husband is in his 60s and has Parkinson’s?
“I have to do it,” I told him from the top, still hanging onto the zip line handles. “I can’t let little kids get the best of me.”
“Or little old men,” he added.
I dawdled, took deep breaths and readjusted the wooden seat between my legs a hundred times. I thought about the time Mom and I went zip lining in Asheville where the highest line was 20 stories up and almost 1,000 feet long, whooshing us over a big valley. Shouldn’t it be easier when I can see the ground?
“I like adventure!” I yelled from the tree house, half reminding myself, half informing the husband that I’m not a pansy.
That’s about the time he likened my embarrassing freak out to taking a leap of faith with bigger things in life.
I sense a blog post, I thought.
Of course, I still had to jump. I would regret it if I didn’t.
OK, it’s a beautiful day, only one person is watching me and what’s the worst thing that could happen? I thought.
And then … I let go.
Four runs and no broken bones later, I discovered that sitting on the ledge and taking off from there is much easier than standing and jumping forward. I still worried each time that I would whack the tree at the end, but it never happened.
I walked home 10 minutes later, proud of myself for doing what countless 5-year-olds have done before me. After all, sometimes it’s harder to be a kid than an adult.
The older you get, the easier it is to see all the things that could go wrong—like falling out of a tree house, dislocating a knee or jamming your toes into an oak tree. It can be debilitating, and not much fun.
But kids don’t typically have that fear factor. They haven’t lived life long enough to recall a news story where someone incurred brain damage from a faulty zip line. I guess you could call them optimistic. Oblivious, but optimistic.
The whole zip line thing also made me wonder: What else am I too afraid to do? Am I missing out on something great by staying in my comfort zone?
It’s one of those lessons you learn over and over and bears repeating. I wish I was the first one to say it, but life is too short to live in fear.